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Cemetery tour offers glimpse of Middlesex's buried past

February 21st, 2006

New Jersey Jewish News Story


Encouraged by supporters of her yearlong effort to refurbish Middlesex County’s neglected Jewish cemeteries, Mona Shangold, on Sunday, March 19, will lead what she hopes will be the first of many tours of the graveyards and the stories they tell.

“They represent the final resting place for a significant part of the Jewish community of Perth Amboy and the surrounding communities,” said Shangold, the founder of Friends for Preservation of Middlesex County Jewish Cemeteries, Inc.

Friends was formed in February 2005 in order to connect today’s Jewish community with its historic roots in Perth Amboy and its stake in the preservation of the Hebrew Fraternity Cemetery in Hopelawn and the Shaarey Tefiloh cemetery in Perth Amboy.

The walking tour will take a major step toward making that connection, said Shangold. “I will point out the graves of several community leaders, provide some history of the cemeteries and the community, help some attendees locate the graves of their relatives, and demonstrate areas in need of significant repair.

Walking through these cemeteries is like a trip down Memory Lane for anyone who grew up in Perth Amboy, since the names on so many graves are so familiar.” said Shangold, a physician who lives in Moorestown.

The tour is a natural outgrowth of the organization’s Web site, www.friendsofjewishcemeteries. org, which offers a virtual tour of the cemeteries.

So far, the newly incorporated nonprofit has raised $30,000 toward an eventual goal of more than $1 million. “We are going to hire landscapers and are getting bids now,” Shangold said. “It costs a great amount.”

Shangold said she is proud of the effort — including “a new partnership” with the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County, which has created a separate affiliate corporation, the Greater Middlesex County Jewish Cemetery Management Corporation, according to Leslie Kornfeld, the federation’s controller. Information about the corporation is available on the federation’s Web site, www.jewishmiddlesex.org.

The project is an outgrowth, Kornfeld said, of what the federation has been doing for 10 years: “maintaining and managing abandoned Jewish cemeteries” in the county.

What the Friends organization does, she pointed out, “falls in line with this, except they are funding [cemeteries] that are not abandoned.” In the future, Kornfeld explained, the federation “will help promote their organization, make available some of our marketing resources, and manage the funds for their organization.”

“We have really come together as a community for the community,” said Shangold. “Those of us with roots in the Jewish community of Middlesex County have united to honor those who devoted their lives to the Jewish community of yesteryear.”

The March 19 walk will begin at noon at the Hebrew Fraternity Cemetery entry gate on New Brunswick Avenue in Hopelawn. Following the hour-long tour, the group will move to the Shaarey Tefiloh Cemetery on Florida Grove Road in Perth Amboy for a second hour-long tour.

For information on how to participate in the tour, learn more about, and/or contribute to the organization, contact 856-222-1418 or
friends@friendsofjewishcemeteries.org.


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